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We need the funk 

Sure, the man dresses funny, but the fact is, few performers have broken down as many musical barriers or have taken black music in this country as far over the last three decades as GEORGE CLINTON. That's far as in far out. As in way out. As in out there, baby. But with Clinton, there has always been a method behind the madness. He's bringing his funky mothership to the remodeled Fox Theater on Thursday, March 1.

Whether as a solo artist or in conjunction with his highly entertaining musical collectives, Parliament and Funkadelic, Clinton has always been an innovator, a trend-setter and explorer, pushing R & amp;B and funk into previously uncharted territory. Without the P-Funk influence of Clinton and his many collaborators thumping away in the forebrains of aspiring artists, Prince might have ended up flipping burgers, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers would still be playing Van Halen covers at high school proms.

Clinton began his long strange trip in the entertainment business as a doo-wop singer with a New Jersey vocal group called the Parliaments. He scored his first hit in 1967 with "(I Just Wanna) Testify." After moving to Detroit in order to establish a new identity and sound, Clinton was tempered by both the anti-establishment attitudes of the counterculture movement and the primitive, rhythmic and decidedly metallic sounds of such motor city bands as the MC5 and the Stooges.

The musical hybrid Clinton conceived was a hard-rocking, deep thumping, imminently danceable and, above all, soulful and funky creature -- equal parts James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Iggy Pop. Once he had all the musicians in place (including eventually, James Brown's former bass player, Bootsy Collins), it was simply a matter of dressing everyone up in royal glam style -- feathers, glitter, silver lamé, six-inch platform boots -- and shazam! Funkadelic and the reformed Parliament came into being -- bands that could provoke and intrigue as well as entertain. And entertain they did. Shamelessly.

The Funkadelic/Parliament collective of musicians drew on a wide variety of influences both musically and politically. They got everyone dancing and thinking as well -- no small feat at the time (or any other for that matter). While the rest of the popular music world was lapsing into the bone-headedness of metal, the escapism of progressive rock and disco or droopy, singer-songwriter-based pop, Clinton and his exuberant P-Funk disciples presented a deceptively sophisticated -- often dark and jarring -- view of the world. Between them, the two bands ruled the funk nation of the late '70s with a string of excellent albums including Parliament's Mothership Connection (which featured P-Funk's greatest anthem, "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk).") and Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome (a comment on the anemic state of pop music in the '70s). Funkadelic's acclaimed concept album, One Nation Under a Groove, is one of the best funk albums ever produced.

And for as entertaining as they were on record, Clinton and his merry band of musicians were utterly over the top when on stage. Funkadelic/Parliament toured together, pulling out all the stops with lavish costumes and outrageous sets featuring huge flying saucers.

Eventually, financial troubles and personal battles with substance abuse would drive Clinton into retreat. In the early '80s, he went on a touring sabbatical and spent most of the decade sitting on the sidelines while the sounds he pioneered disseminated and then took root elsewhere in pop music.

But his fans and fellow musicians (not to mention his own irrepressible spirit and seemingly inexhaustable creativity) wouldn't let him rest on his laurels for long. With the funk resurgence of the mid '90s, Clinton and P-Funk were back in vogue. Lollapalooza appearances only further solidified his position as the godfather of funk-rock.

Now touring again under the moniker of George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, Clinton is as ostentatious and entertaining as ever, preaching to the converted and winning over new disciples everywhere the mothership touches down. So get up for the down stroke, and give this guy -- one of the most fascinating in the history of popular music -- his propers.

George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars perform at the Fox Theater on Thursday, March 1, at 8 pm. Tickets: $28.50. Call: 325-SEAT.

All Over The Map

Well, this is definitely one weekend where I better not hear any of you mooks out there griping about the lack of good, live, squirming rock 'n' roll in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene. I'm telling you, you're not gonna be able to swing a sock full of horse manure around these parts (between now and Sunday in the wee hours) without smacking a living, breathing, high-caliber rock band in the kisser. Almost anywhere you look in the next three days, there's something most definitely rocking taking shape. Had enough of my browbeating and hyperbole? Me too.

It all begins with the CLUMSY LOVERS' return engagement to our fair land on Thursday night at Boomerang's (they also are on tap at Moscow's John's Alley on Friday). This wacky sextet hails from the Great White North (Vancouver, B.C., to be exact) where they raise 'em to believe that there ain't nothing wrong with a little banjo and fiddle mixed in with your rock. Their mix of folk, world beat, bluegrass and, yes, rock, is driven by a fiddle player (Andrea Lewis) so maniacal and intense that they freaked out my sister at a recent show in Bozeman, Mont. And my sister doesn't freak easily. Tickets are seven bucks.

On Friday, things pick up steam as THE MAYFIELD FOUR will be holding court at Boomerang's. Myles Kennedy, Marty Meisner and Zia Uddin are itching to get back into touring mode pending the release of their new CD on Epic. The album (called Second Skin), originally scheduled for an April release has now been bumped back to June.

"It's your typical big label charade," laments vocalist Kennedy, who -- when we last spoke in October -- was then crawling the walls with a desire for the road. Touring, performing live, getting feedback from the fans -- this is what a band does. When that's not happening... "It's not good," Kennedy deadpans. "You get into trouble. You stay out late at Mootsy's. General stupidity."

But truth be told, the trio has been busy auditioning guitarists to free up Kennedy a little in the instrumentation department. They think they've found their man and will be debuting him at Friday's Boomerang's show. That show is $6 advance (through G & amp;B) and $8 at the door.

Also on Friday night (on the other side of the river), the Trailer Park Girls bring their witty repartee and impressively oddball repertoire to the Bayou's Fat Tuesday's Lounge.

Saturday night all looks so good; I don't know where to begin. Beginning in the north -- Ichabod's North -- we're looking at a show by one of the most intriguing and consistently challenging bands the Northwest has produced in modern times. NOMEANSNO has been at it for the better part of two decades, and they still sound just as rough and wet behind the ears as if they formed yesterday. Local punk rock powerhaus Eastside Destroyers are also on the bill. This one's easily worth the $7 price of admission.

Meanwhile, Boomerang's is holding its first ever "FETISH FESTIVAL" starting at around 9 pm. For a lousy $10 ($12, at the door) you will be treated to the sights and sounds of local bands Hell Equipped, Necrofiliax, Titan and Off to the Left. Also on hand will be representatives from local adult supply stores (with an emphasis on "adult"). The freebies and swag should be interesting.

Dress lightly if you're heading over to the Bayou Saturday, because it's sure to get very sweaty in Fat Tuesday's when Spokane's premier ska/reggae/funk outfit, CIVILIZED ANIMAL, starts to pummel the crowd with their tight and imminently danceable horn-driven skank.

A little earlier in the evening (starting at around 7 pm), the Big Dipper will be hosting another R.A.W.K. ALL-AGES SHOW featuring two Spokane bands -- Buddy Ruckus and Neither Be Afraid -- and two Portland area bands -- PDEX and Not Long After. As the Ramones once stated so eloquently: "All the kids want something to do." I'm glad somebody's giving them live rock. Admission is $7 at the door.

Inland Northwest transplants to the West Side, BEECRAFT are in the area this weekend, holding a CD release party on Saturday night at Capone's in Coeur d'Alene. No, they're not technically a rock band. They are a crazy jazz/funk/fusion amalgam that seems more than able to draw folks to the dance floor. So there. Oh yeah, and that show will cost you three whole dollars.

Blues Benefit

This Saturday, the Inland Empire Blues Society will gather a bevy of local blues artists together for a show to benefit local nonprofit organizations that help kids in trouble and kids in need. The "BLUES CATS FOR KIDS" extravaganza will be held at the Spokane Valley Eagles and will feature performances by Jeff Aker, Anita Royce and the Rollers, Tommy & amp; Vance, Pat Coast and Out Of the Blue, Blue Tattoo, Laughin' Bones, Charlie Butts and the Filter Tips, Papa Glenn, the Bone Daddies and Mumbo Jumbo.

This is the fourth anniversary of the event that has in the past benefited such worthy organizations as Crosswalk and the Martin Luther King Foundation. The show is free and is sponsored by several local businesses as well as KKZX and KPBX radio. The performances will be interspersed with local blues DJs auctioning off donated items.

"Blues Cats for Kids" will be held at the Eagles Lodge in the Spokane Valley at 16801 E. Sprague from 1 pm-midnight on Saturday, February 24. Free. Call: 625-7763.

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